A Condition Called D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad

When I talk of breastfeeding and sadness, the conversation always leans towards postpartum depression.  But there is something else that can cause sadness during breastfeeding that is completely unrelated to postpartum depression…


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


The way D-MER was described to me is that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s triggered with the let-down reflex.

[Here is the actual Wikipedia definition.]

Different women feel it different ways and at different levels of intensity.  Dysphoric means negative feelings so the feelings range from depressed to angry.  Some women describe it as a “homesick” feeling in the pit of the stomach.

FOR ME, IT FELT LIKE AN ANXIETY ATTACK.  My insides felt as though they were twisting and bubbling and my heart started racing.  I would get a tingling pins and needles sensation all over my upper body and arms.  And there was this overwhelming feeling of “dread” as if something terrible was about to happen.  (Like that feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve slept in and are late for work.)

The feeling only lasted for the first few minutes after a let down reflex but it happened every single time I had a let down reflex… every single time I breastfed.
I talk more about that awesome Public Health Nurse in this post!

And while I came to anticipate them each time I breastfed or pumped milk, I didn’t associate these negative feelings with the let down reflex – I just assumed they came at random times.  Naturally, I classified them as some sort of postpartum depression symptom since I suffered with PPD and the baby blues with my first two children.

It wasn’t until I mentioned the strange sensation to my public health nurse shortly after the birth of my third child that she suggested it might be D-MER.  After some research on it, I knew instantly it was what I had, especially since I had zero symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder this time around.


THE NUMBER ONE TREATMENT OPTION FOR D-MER IS AWARENESS!

Breastfeeding my third child was much easier after knowing exactly the cause of these strange feelings.  I learned to breathe through the anxiety attacks and wait for them to be over – similar to breathing through labour contractions.  The confusion, the guilt, the shame and the stress were all gone because now I knew that it was simply a reflex, and not a psychological problem.


I wish I had known about this condition when I first started breastfeeding.  I didn’t say anything about it to anyone because I thought it was just another symptom of postpartum depression and there are so many reasons why mothers don’t speak up about having postpartum depression.  

postpartum depression
speak up when you’re feeling down!

 


Of course, for some women the sensations are so severe that awareness alone is not a solution.  There are different treatment options available.  Natural treatments include Rhodiola Supplements, Vitamin B12, Placenta Encapsulation & Acupuncture.  Prescription treatments are also available.

www.D-MER.org has tons of information, resources and treatment options and should be your first stop for info on this fairly new & unknown condition.

Click here join their official Facebook group: Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) Support Group from d-mer.org


RELATED READING:

indigo.ca

The Revised and Updated 8th Edition of the The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International) has a section on D-MER.

Fox News recently shared this article – DMER: the scary breast-feeding condition you’ve never heard of

Birth Without Fear shared a post on D-MER in 2013: D-MER {No, You are Not Crazy}

Read this first hand account about D-MER on The Badass Breastfeeder

The Naughty Mommy writes about her struggle with The Breastfeeding Blues a.k.a. D-MER


PIN IT!

9 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Speak Up About Having Postpartum Depression

I battled with postpartum depression silently for a long time and didn’t speak a word of it to anyone, nor did I have any intention to.

The reason why I finally decided to share my story was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown, Lisa Gibson, who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013 (along with her two children).  The story, in itself, was truly heartbreaking but what bothered me the most was the public reaction.  Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.

Her story was a worst case scenario, but I dreaded what others would think of me if they knew the dark thoughts and feelings that I battled with while I had postpartum depression.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to encourage someone to speak up but it made me realize two important things:

1.)  I was not alone.

2.)  We need to annihilate the stigma of postpartum depression.


The month of May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month.

As a survivor of postpartum depression, bringing awareness and help to others who are suffering is a cause that is close to my heart.  While it can be terrifying to “speak up when you’re feeling down” it is so important both for our own mental health and to help bring awareness about this debilitating condition.

postpartum depression

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

1. We are in denial.  

Prior to becoming a mother myself, I had heard about postpartum depression in all of it’s notorious glory.  But I never, ever, in a million years, thought it would happen to me.  I had ZERO risk factors and an awesome support system.  So when the first few symptoms started popping up, I laughed it off…  “ME??? Postpartum depression??? Never!!!”

Mayo Clinic
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

2. We think this is “normal” motherhood.

All we ever hear about when it comes to parenting is how hard it is.  The sleep loss, the crying, the breastfeeding struggle – it’s all normal… right?  A brand new mother experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may assume that this is what everyone meant when they said it was hard.  I’ve heard stories of women opening up to others about what they were feeling, only to be told “welcome to motherhood.”

PostpartumDepression.org
Think you have PPD? Take this quiz!

3. We are terrified of having our child taken away from us.

Obviously we want what’s best for our child but it would be a mother’s worst nightmare to be deemed incapable of caring for her own child (the child who got her into this mess in the first place, might I add).  If anyone knew the thoughts that a mother with postpartum depression has on a regular basis, they would lock her up and throw away the key. (If you are feeling the urge to act upon your bad thoughts, seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a rarer case of postpartum psychosis). 

postpartum depression

4. We are ashamed of ourselves.  

For some reason, society has led us to believe that having postpartum depression is our fault.  Admitting to it is admitting that we were one of the weak ones who fell susceptible to the curse that is postpartum depression.  We feel like terrible people for thinking and feeling the way we do, even though we have no control over it.

5. We are concerned about what others will think of us.

If we are diagnosed with postpartum depression that means we are classified as “mentally ill” and will need to accept the stigma that comes along with that label.  All of a sudden we are dangerous and unpredictable.  Will other people start to question our parenting skills now?  Will they treat us as if we are delicate and fragile and weak?  What will our co-workers or employers think?  Will having postpartum depression jeopardize our futures?

Help your loved ones support you better

6. We feel like failures.

This is not the way it was supposed to happen.  In our dreams of becoming mothers we pictured it blissful and beautiful.  We imagined sitting in a rocking chair, singing lullabies to a sleepy, happy baby.  And when it wasn’t like this, we felt like we had failed. We failed our children and robbed them of a happy childhood.  We failed our spouses and robbed them of a happy marriage. We failed ourselves and all of our dreams of motherhood.  No one ever wants to admit that they are a failure.

7. We think we can cure ourselves.

We think it will go away on it’s own, eventually.  Or maybe we’re planning to tell someone when it gets worse… it just hasn’t yet.  We think that if we sleep a little more, relax a little more, meditate and do yoga that our postpartum depression will magically go away and so there’s no need to burden anyone else with our problems.  Sometimes it does and then it’s just a mild case or the “baby blues” but if it’s truly postpartum depression it’s highly unlikely that it will go away without treatment.

Logo for WebMD
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options

8. We don’t trust the medical system.

It’s a sad truth that many women who open up about postpartum depression still don’t get the help they need.  Unless you already have a trusting relationship with a medical professional it can be difficult to find the right person to seek help from with such a personal matter.  The fear is that we’ll be told we’re over-exaggerating, drug seekers or that it’s all in our head.

[If you need help finding local professionals you can trust call the PSI Warmline 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)]

postpartum.net – your first point of contact to get help with postpartum depression

9. We feel alone.

We’ve joined online support groups.  We read the posts and silently agree without so much as a “like.” The women write about how they’re exhausted and overwhelmed.  They talk about how they can’t sleep at night, how they can’t eat or can’t stop eating and how they worry about everything all the time.  And we can relate to that.

But what those women don’t talk about is the bad thoughts they have.  It’s incriminating and requires a *trigger warning* and what if no one else feels the same way?

I’m here to tell you that I don’t care what bad thoughts you have, I don’t want nor need to know what they are because chances are, I’ve had them too.  You don’t have to say them out loud.  You can pretend like you didn’t even think them, so long as you know that you are not the only person who has thought them.  You are not alone.


postpartum depression
Visit www.pactforthecure.com for full details

What Breastfeeding Meant to Me

We’ve all heard of the benefits of breastfeeding #breastisbest!  We’ve also probably heard a number of horror stories about bleeding nipples and bathroom feedings.  It takes sacrifice, practice and patience but what you get out of it is so worth it.

babyatbreast


When I was pregnant for the first time, I didn’t need any convincing to breastfeed.  I was so curious about experiencing this miracle for myself (and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on formula).  I researched more on breastfeeding than anything else while I was pregnant and I was probably more worried about successfully breastfeeding than I was about labor and delivery.

This helped!

At first, breastfeeding came easily.  Baby latched on well.  Except that ONE time.  Which led to a cracked nipple.  Which turned into mastitis.  Oh and what are those white patches inside his mouth?  Greaaaat… he’s got thrush.

And then engorgement happened and while I was happy to see the breasts I’ve always dreamed of, I couldn’t put my arms down at my sides because of the milk backed up into my armpits.  Which led to a clogged milk duct.  Which turned into mastitis.. again.

And that was only 1 month in…

But not once did I think – “maybe this isn’t for me.”  Because it wasn’t about me.  It was about my baby. 

And I was going to give him the best damn breast milk a body could make, even if it meant wearing cabbage leaves in my bra.

But, actually, it was about me.

Because for the 9 months that I carried him, the people in my life took good care of me.  I felt like the most important person in the world to them.

They called to see how I was doing, carried bags for me and opened doors for me.

They painted rooms and cooked me food and bought me gifts.

They put their hands on my belly and while I thought I wouldn’t  enjoy that, I really did.  Because it made them so excited to witness this miracle growing inside of me.

And in those final hours before he was born, they comforted me and encouraged me and cried with me.

And then it was over…

They placed him in my arms and in that one instant it all became about him.

My needs faded into the background and his came first.  Everyone crowded around to get a glimpse of his tiny face and fought over who got to hold him next.  This was the way it was now, and would be for a very long time.  For a few seconds I felt jealous.  But then… he cried.  He was hungry…

Suddenly I became the most important person in the world again – to him.  And it didn’t matter whether or not I was important to anyone else as long as I was important to him.

Breastfeeding my second child came easier.

But she cried.  She cried so… damn… much.

She didn’t like when anyone held her except me but she also didn’t like NOT being held.

She refused to take a bottle.

She refused to take a pacifier.

She was constantly gassy and it took an elaborate series of moves just to get her to burp.

The only thing that could soothe her was a nursing session…

postpartum depression
I didn’t speak up then but I’m speaking up now

In the gloomy hours of the night, as I sat lonely in the nursery with my breast shoved into her mouth to keep her quiet while everyone else was asleep, I felt a deep darkness set in.  I cried because it’s so much easier to cry in the dark when no one is watching.  I was so tired.  And I was so mad.  I hated that I was the only one able to soothe her.  It felt like a curse.  It became a regular occurrence during our 3 am feeding sessions.  She would suck and I would cry.  I wanted to sleep.  I hated breastfeeding.  I hated that it was all on me to do this.  I hated feeling like I was on a leash, a servant to my baby’s cries for comfort.

But that was just the postpartum depression talking…

My doctor offered to put me on medication – “but you can’t breastfeed while you’re on it,” he said.

WOO-HOO – a way out!

But as much as I hated breastfeeding, the thought of stopping – like really, actually stopping, not just threatening to stop – opened me up to a flood of emotions.  I cried again, but not because I was mad, this time it was out of sadness and regret.  I was sorry for this little girl who just wanted to eat and her mother hated feeding her.  She would be deprived of the benefits of breast milk because of me.  I felt like I had failed her.

So I exhaled after what seemed like an incredibly long breath in.  And then I felt inspired and encouraged to do right by her.

“No, thank you, doctor.  I WANT to breastfeed my baby”

It was the breastfeeding that led me into the darkness but also the breastfeeding that saved me.

From a mother who knows what it feels like

My youngest daughter also gave me a fair share of trouble when it came to breastfeeding.
I learned this from her!

At the time of her birth, we lived in a small town in Saskatchewan and the one public health nurse there had been the public health nurse for over 20 years.  She had watched all the town’s babies be born, she helped their mothers feed them, she vaccinated them and gave them flu shots.  She watched the efforts of her hard work grow up into strong and healthy adults.

She was, by far, the BEST nurse I ever had the honour of knowing and she taught me more about breastfeeding than I ever learned from the countless nurses and midwives I had in years before.

So we got through the tough stuff, thanks to her.


And it was only with my third baby did I truly come to ENJOY breastfeeding.

Being an already busy mom of two, I longed for those moments when I could just sit down for a few minutes to feed the baby.

I studied her face, her eye color and the way her hair was growing in.

She never bit or scratched me.

She loved to make eye contact.

She didn’t talk or demand that I pay attention to her.

She just drank and was happy and content.

It was a tiny peaceful moment… our moment… my moment.


 Now that I am done breastfeeding my babies – I miss those moments… the peaceful ones, the painful ones and the dark ones. 

To them it was merely sustenance, but to me it was so much more.